Local centers reaching limits on treating heroin addicts

Local treatment centers are reaching their limit to treat those who are addicted to heroin.

They are the new face of heroin addiction - after getting prescribed an opiate painkiller, they got hooked. When new regulations limited the number of prescriptions and refills, many addicts turned to another opiate drug for supply.

"It seems like people can't get their prescription drugs anymore so they turned to heroin which is the drug of choice," said Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley.

Increased heroin use is a problem across New York State and a challenge for treatment sites like Beacon Center in Utica. Opiate addiction is very difficult to overcome and clinical supervisor Admina Spahic says many patients require medication like Suboxone to help with withdrawal symptoms.

"The withdrawal symptoms are painful, sometimes described as unbearable and makes it difficult to go through that stage," said Spahic.

A doctor can only have 100 patients being treated with Suboxone at one time. As heroin addiction cases have increased, Beacon Center is almost out of spaces for patients who need a prescription. Spahic hopes the center will not have to turn away those who need assistance with their recovery.

"We're not there yet but we are pretty close and I think that would be the most difficult thing from this side is to tell someone, I'm sorry - we don't have a spot for you."

Treatment centers and police say the new regulations on prescription painkillers should help in the long term but say the increase in heroin cases shows just how powerful addiction can be